We all recycle. That is what we do. We all recycle and run or walk or bike to work. We bike to work and wash our walls with vinegar. With vinegar and sea sponges. We do not eat sea bass, not if it swam off the coast of Chile. Chile is a country with a lot of coast.
Everyone we know pulls plastic from the windows of their pasta boxes, separates bottles from aluminum cans. Every can we use again adds a minute to the time remaining before catastrophe.
So we bundle our newspapers and nod at our neighbors when we pull the grey bins to the corner; we nod to our neighbors until our cheeks complain. We do not look to see if they put all their bottles in the right bin. We are not that petty.
The sea looks empty on its surface. We know that deep down it is full, like a city street, of fish who eat other fish. The sea is already acidic. Like a citrus, like a lime or a lemon, which, along with the salt that has always been there, means if we fill our wet suits with tequila, we will be set.
A desert is empty on its surface and underneath.
When we live in a desert we will notice every plant. We can see a tortoise or a spider or a Jeep from a great distance away. There is not much there. In the desert.
Here we have too much. In even one room equipment webs on a tangle of wires like arteries: phone, computer, tablet, another phone, another phone, television, stereo (still here even though it only plays cds which we do not use). But what are we to do with the cds that we do not play? And the dvds? And the vhs tapes?
We tell ourselves we will recycle these. Along with the now defunct printers and monitors that provide a garden plot for slime and furry mold in the back of the garage.
Stuff. We roll our eyes and say we have too much. Too much stuff. We promise we will hold a yard sale, imagine dropping six carloads at the salvation army depot. We map out an afternoon of side trips to the hazardous waste, the green dump, the junk yard.
We decide we will take the things we no longer need and put them in the right pile at the junk yard. In the electronic wasteland our used phones will land on the cell phone heaps, our mother boards will top computer alps, our batteries will crackle when they land on monuments of lithium causing an avalanche that threatens the neighboring high rise of wire.
The sun goes up and down while we make plans to break our stuff apart into useful piles. We drive to work full of good intentions.
After dinner, we sort plain paper (recycle) from waxy paper (compost) from cellophane (garbage) from wine bottles. After wine, we cannot remember where to put the plastic milk carton and where to put the paper one. We make a special bag to solve the case of milk containers.
If we were rich, we would drink organic milk that comes in bottles and our confusion would be removed.
As would our trash.
After the wine, we stop worrying about holes in our socks and in the ozone and enjoy the surprise of temperature that comes from holes. On the nights when we have had the pleasure of too much wine, we just toss everything into the garbage bag. We will take it out at night when the neighbors are watching football.
NPR says we can expect temperatures to exceed historical variability by 2047. Everywhere, we will be hot. We will wear halter tops and flip-flops even to the office. We will wear Hawaiian shirts in Fairbanks. We don’t want to, but we look through websites to find Hawaiian prints that complement our skin.
We might as well be ready.
Kathie Jacobson lives and writes in Oakland, California. Her work has appeared in Sassafras Literary Magazine.